Driver Health and Safety – Employer Obligations & Fleet Management Solutions

A woman who spent 12 hours trapped in her freezing car as it lay meters from the road near Taumaranui, would have died from hypothermia if she had been left there for another hour – potentially a serious driver health and safety situation. The rescue by a passing motorist was lucky but if the outcome had been less positive, the driver’s employer could have faced significant penalties for a failure to take all practical steps to address the known hazard inherent in driver health and safety, and the risk of further harm after the event. This frightening case highlights the critical need for company vehicles to have access to 24/7 Crash Management services including emergency response.

We’ve covered driver health and safety implications for company vehicle fleets many times, most recently at WorkSafe have already started treating vehicle accidents seriously. Penalties and fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars were applied to the tragic fatality involving a rubbish truck worker earlier this year –

Talk to Crash Management now about a vehicle accident response service and customised programme to suit your fleet, to support driver health and safety at a surprisingly affordable cost. This includes 24/7 emergency response, car insurance claims support, assessor co-ordination, free late model courtesy cars, and collision repair management to ensure vehicles are repaired to manufacturers’ specifications and remain safe on our roads. This is all supported by advanced web-based technology, a robust communications programme, and of course our famous free courtesy car facility.

See the full story of the driver who was trapped in freezing overnight temperatures for 12 hours after she crashed and rolled on a rural road near Taumaranui.

“A woman who spent 11 hours trapped in her freezing car as it lay metres from the road, would have died from hypothermia if she had been left there for another hour, her rescuers were told. The woman, in her 40s, was pale and cold and started shaking as carpenters from Max Mackenzie Builders stopped on State Highway 41 and ran to her aid, covering her in their jackets to warm her up.

The group of Taumarunui builders were on their way to a building site in Omori near Taupo around 8 this morning when they spotted the Toyota Vivi from SH41. Site foreman Ricky Balloch said they pulled over to see what had happened to the crashed vehicle, expecting to find a dead person. As they wrestled through the toi tois to get to the car, which had rolled twice over a ditch, they yelled out to see if anyone was there. The car had landed on the driver’s side and the front window was hanging off. “We got close to the car and said, ‘Hello, is anyone there?’ and we heard this real faint ‘Help me’.” When they saw the woman, who was in her 40s, she still had her seatbelt on but her left arm was broken so she was unable to use it to free herself.

This group of Taumarunui builders were on their way to work when they spotted the overturned car and went to check it out. Khan Rawiri, left, Christopher Dassen, Pierre Cowlishaw, Ricky Balloch and Cody Balloch. “She was freezing, we got our jackets out of the van and piled as much on as we could. And just kept her calm really and called for help.” He said given how cold she was, she was extremely coherent and able to communicate very well.
Balloch said they called 111 and ran to the car to find whatever they could to warm her up. Temperatures fell to about -4C on Sunday night as the woman sat and counted 26 cars drive past her in the dark. “She was so grateful. She was unbelievably grateful. She couldn’t thank us enough. “She said, ‘I thought no one would ever stop’ – because she had been there since 9pm at night.”

The men tried to comfort her while they waited and started unloading her car which was packed with kitset furniture she had been delivering to the Taumarunui Hospital, where she worked. “We had tom boy going ripping stuff out of the car, kicking the front window out.” They cleared the remaining glass from the broken front window so they could cover her in their jackets.
The woman had been to Hamilton that day to collect the furniture, dropping a friend off in Taupo before heading home to Taumarunui.

She told the men as they waited for help that her car had slipped on the ice.
“The road was shockingly frozen and she came around the corner and she was saying that she just touched the brakes and that was it, she started sliding.” He said she was in pain and they heard she had a few internal injuries. They were two hours late for work, but they were more worried about the woman than what time it was. “She wasn’t shivering when we got there, but once we started warming her up with some coats and stuff it was like she was in shock. We got told later on today that she was only about an hour out of dying from hypothermia. She was severely hypothermic.”

The men were keen to get in touch to see how she was. Balloch said a logging truck driver had spotted the car before them but thought it had been dealt with. “But there wasn’t any tape around it, you see. That’s why we stopped, because it wasn’t taped off or anything like that.” Boss Max Mackenzie said his workers had certainly done their good deed for the day.
St John paramedics, firefighters and the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter arrived at the scene and the woman was flown to Waikato Hospital. A rescue helicopter spokesman who attended the crash said the woman was “bloody cold” when they arrived. They used a thermal electric blanket to warm her up. “She couldn’t keep warm. She was stuck there. They had to cut her out so she couldn’t move at all and she was wet, but I would say that was just from the humidity and moisture in the air.

“She was really lovely. She spent the whole time apologising for being a nuisance. She was really cool.” The car crashed in a “strange spot” between two corners and the bottom of the car was facing the road so it would have been difficult for cars to spot in the dark, he said. A DHB spokeswoman said the woman was in a serious but stable condition tonight.

Ultimately this was a happy outcome, but the risk to driver health and safety is clear – talk to us now!

3 Responses

  1. Hans
    | Reply

    WorkSafe has still not got their heads around driver hazard in New Zealand. As you’ve previously identified , most car accident claims (and therefore injuries and fatalities) relate to company vehicles, sadly there have been hundreds of car accident fatalities since the HSWA came into effect but few prosecutions. The rubbish truck incident caused the tragic loss of life of a young 19yr old woman and was proven to resulted from poor truck maintenance which the waste management company was aware of. Despite all this they were fined a trifling $100,000 – a national disgrace. More focus on employee responsibility for driver safety is urgently needed. I would agree that formal accident management protocols and services are essential for ALL fleet operators, whether they handle that in-house or outsource to Crash Management etc. Keep up the good work!

  2. Dave J
    | Reply

    Well done to Nicky Bree Tourism Holdings Commercial Fleet Manager, this year’s winner of the Fleet Safety award 2017. Good application of smart technology reduced speeding by 84%t and also reduced serious ‘vehicle ran off the road’ type crashes to just two for the year, well down on the previous year’s record of 14 serious/ roll-over accidents. Great to see Fleet Managers taking Health & Safety seriously, this is a great result! See the whole story here –

  3. Crash Management
    | Reply

    There’s a wide range of driver safety focused products and services in the market, and the technology based solutions are becoming very affordable. Crash Management collects detailed incident-related data that helps clients analyse why accidents happen, and can help target remedial solutions. The research is on-going in the technology sector and there are some great tools available.

    Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) and the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) have designed a new low-cost system that detects the drivers’ symptoms of fatigue and distraction and helps prevent possible traffic accidents.

    The system consists of four sensors that monitor different physical parameters of the driver and their position at the wheel.

    From these values, the system is able to generate a series of acoustic signals if it detects some risk, thus alerting the driver and avoiding a possible accident.

    As the researchers explain, fatigue has a wide range of symptoms: blurred vision and increased blink rate; anxiety and changes in the driver’s behavior; increase in the number of movements needed to be comfortable on the seat; and, more importantly, an increase in the driver’s reaction time to a certain dangerous situation on the road.

    “For this reason, it is important to have some system capable of detecting those symptoms to help increase the driver’s safety. Now, most of the current solutions focus on eye movement and face detection, and our system goes further,” says Jaime Lloret, researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

    The system devised by the researchers consists of an electronic board that acts as a central processing unit, two pressure sensors and another two that measure the driver’s temperature, all of them located on the steering wheel, and by duplicate for monitoring both hands; a light sensor on the headrest that would detect possible snoozes when driving; and the buzzer that generates the acoustic alarm in case of detecting fatigue or distraction.

    All of this is complete with a collision sensor that detects collisions or sudden braking and a button to reset the system located on the steering wheel. “After triggering an alarm, the driver has to disable it by pressing the button,” says Sandra Sendra, researcher from the University of Granada.

    The sensors are connected to the central electronic board, which receives data from the sensors every second, and it processes and analyzes them by an algorithm, to check if the collected values remain within the thresholds considered normal or safe. When any of these sensors exceeds said threshold values, the algorithm tries to define if it is a false alarm or if the sensors have registered a possible fatigue or distraction situation. In an affirmative case, the acoustic signal that alerts the driver is activated.

    Additionally, all data are stored on a micro-SD card for a possible post-processing task, in case of accidents or future studies.

    The system was presented at the 1st EAI International Conference on Future Intelligent Vehicular Technologies, held last September in Portugal. The work was also awarded as the best paper of the conference.

    Looking ahead, the researchers plan to incorporate a small GPS receiver to collect the position of the vehicle and a wireless module that allows to connect the system with the drivers’ smartphones, so that, as a last resort, the system is able to make an emergency call – this is a HUGE step forward, and will be a great driver safety enabler.

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